Sub-session 1 The Epistemology of Evolutionary Debunking Arguments
Several recent discussions question whether there is a sound epistemic principle to support evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs) that purport to debunk the justification of our moral beliefs. Some, for example, claim that evolutionary debunking arguments raise problems, if they do, about the modal security or modal safety of our moral beliefs. Others claim, in contrast, that evolutionary explanations of our moral beliefs are evidence of error. Yet others think that they reveal a disagreement problem about our moral beliefs. The aim of this sub-session will be to deepen our understanding of the epistemic principle that undergirds debunking arguments that target the justification of our moral beliefs.
On Evolutionary Debunking Arguments in Moral Epistemology: What Would Be a NonQuestion-Begging Response?
The paper discusses arguments that aim to undercut the epistemological status of our moral and other evaluative beliefs on the basis of the evolutionary genesis of our belief-forming tendencies. In the literature that addresses responses to these arguments, one major issue is whether there is an effective response that is not question-begging. Some responses rest on substantive evaluative views whereas others rest on meta-ethical views, but it is arguable that meta-ethical theories must ultimately rest on substantive evaluative views. It is not clear that any effective response could avoid relying on substantive evaluative views. And Sharon Street has claimed, plausibly, that responses to the argument that rest on substantive evaluative views are question-begging (2008: 215). Katia Vavova says, “It’s unclear what would be a non-questionbegging response” (2015: 112). I begin by laying out the debunking argument as I understand it. I then consider meta-ethical responses, such as Street’s claim that irrealist theories can escape the argument. This leads to the question whether such responses can avoid begging the question. I assume a pragmatic understanding, according to which, whether an argument is question-begging depends on the argumentative context. I point out that so-called “third-factor” responses to the debunking argument are not question-begging in all contexts. Similarly, my own quasi-tracking response is not question-begging in all contexts. The core issue is whether there is a response that would not beg the question against a person who is convinced at the outset of discussion that the debunking argument is sound. I address this question in concluding the paper.
The Reliability Challenge in Moral Epistemology
The Reliability Challenge to moral non-naturalism has received substantial attention recently in the literature on moral epistemology. While the popularity of this particular challenge is a recent development, the challenge has a long history, as the form of this challenge can be traced back to a skeptical challenge in the philosophy of mathematics raised by Paul Benacerraf. The current Reliability Challenge is widely regarded as the most sophisticated way to develop this skeptical line of thinking, making the Reliability Challenge the strongest epistemic challenge to normative non-naturalism. In this paper, I argue that the innovations that have occurred since Benacerraf’s statement of the challenge are misconceived and confused in a number of ways. The Reliability Challenge is not the strongest epistemic challenge to normative non-naturalism. The strongest challenge comes from the fact that there is a kind of causal condition on knowledge that non-natural facts cannot satisfy.
A case for Objectivist Conditions for Defeat
I make the case for distinguishingly clearly between subjective and objective accounts of undercutting defeat and for rejecting a hybrid view that takes both subjective and objective elements to be relevant for whether or not a belief is defeated. Subjectivists claim that taking a belief to be defeated is sufficient for the belief to be defeated; subjectivist idealists add that if an idealised agent takes a belief to be defeated, then the belief is defeated. A purely subjectivist view of defeat implausibly implies that justification comes cheap. Subjectivist idealism depends on conflicting intuitions and can be shown to yield inconsistent results in some cases. Both views should be rejected. We should be objectivists regarding undercutting defeat.